Are Cunningham, Linehan right for revival?
Admittedly, it seems illogical on its face: To help the Lions rebound from the worst season in NFL history, new coach Jim Schwartz hired two coordinators from teams that in any other year would be considered the worst in the league.
New defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham comes from Kansas City, where the Chiefs went 2-14 last year and have lost 23 of their last 25 overall (same as the Lions). New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan coached the last two-plus seasons in St. Louis. The Rams went 2-14 last year (Linehan was around only for the 0-4 start) and 11-25 in Linehan's tenure.
No other team finished last season with fewer than four wins.
So what makes Cunningham and Linehan right for the Lions (and time will tell if they are)? While cynics would say losing, fact is, just as Rod Marinelli didn't deserve blame for everything that went wrong in Detroit last year, Cunningham and Linehan were only part of the problem with their respective teams.
Cunningham, as defensive coordinator, surely deserves some blame for the Chiefs having only 10 sacks last year, a record low over a 16-game season. But contrast that and K.C.'s 31st-ranked defense with the Chiefs' overall lack of talent (sound familiar?) and Cunningham's close relationship with his new head coach (again, familiar?) and you understand why Schwartz turned his way.
On offense, Linehan doesn't have much history with his new head coach, but like Cunningham he has a previous track record of success (in Minnesota, Miami and in college) and he was saddled with aging or unreliable talent in St. Louis. Steven Jackson is a fine running back, but he missed four games each of the last two years. Orlando Pace is on his last legs as an offensive lineman. And erratic quarterback play and a brutal defense were more to blame for the Rams' dramatic drop from their Super Bowl years.
Some coaches are cut out more to be coordinators than head men, and that may be Linehan's lot in life. Ditto Cunningham, who spent two years as Kansas City's head coach a decade ago.
But at the risk of sounding redundant, whether Cunningham and Linehan succeed with the Lions will come down to the talent that's by their side. When Cunningham was at the top of his game, he had Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith and Dale Carter. When Linehan's offense was at its best, Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss were a big reason why.
Both men are good coaches, like most everyone else in the NFL. They were available because of their previous team's failures. (You don't normally hire coordinators from winning teams unless, as was the case with Schwartz, it's to be head coach.) And they'll be successful again only if Martin Mayhew gets them some talent to work with.